The issue of national identification and social security numbers is an important policy issue that requires direction by Ethiopian Government. Ethiopia made some progress toward its economic and social goals. It is still missing a unified national identification system that could promote its safety, security, and growth.
Today, when new technologies are conquering the world, countries around the world embrace the advantages of biometric systems to register their citizens and monitor the movement of non-citizens across their borders. A single biometric user identification and social security system can offer numerous benefits to Ethiopia, from providing greater security to ensuring more equitable allocation of scarce social and welfare resources. Ethiopia should implement a national identification system that will facilitate identification and immigration while reducing the scope of identity-based crimes.
A universal passport or an ID card that identifies nationality and citizenship will be helpful for Ethiopia. Today, it is difficult to imagine a person who does not hold a passport or a national ID card. The truth is that many countries implemented national identification and social security systems. The US has an effective social security system that is the backbone for the system to function. India has AADHAR that is in its initial stage but still important for implementing policies like Indian demonetization.
The history of national identification systems dates back to the times of Napoleon. Napoleon’s ID scheme was one of the first in modern history, and the example was quickly followed by Germany and China, Gavendra Singh et al wrote. Many countries across the African continent have successfully implemented their national identification systems, including Gambia, Nigeria, and South Africa, according to Singh et al. The Middle East is making a leap forward to develop biometric identification systems and establish stricter immigration controls. Ethiopia will benefit from a single identification and social security system.
The importance of having a national identification and social security system is justified by the fact that it is a matter of security and stability within the country and at its borders. When thousands of people who look similar, share the same heritage and language move across the country’s borders, it is important to identify them to prevent crime and economic sabotage. The absence of a single biometric identification system gives way to identity frauds and manipulations. Biometric identification is a logical response to the growing sophistication of ID crimes when individuals disguise their identity for criminal purposes. A single national identification system can minimize and, with time, eliminate these risks. A biometric identification system is a reliable way to prevent identity crime in Ethiopia.
Having a national identification system is important for Ethiopia, since it enhances border and immigration control. A national identification system can help immigration officials and border control officers identify individuals’ immigration status. With a biometric identification system in place, Ethiopia will reduce the scope of undocumented immigration that can aggravate its economic, social and political vulnerabilities.
A single national identification and social security system is a matter of internal political and socioeconomic stability for Ethiopia. From the political perspective, proper identification will minimize the risks of voter fraud during national or local elections. From the socioeconomic perspective, a single user identification and social security system will ensure the equity and efficiency of resource allocation in social services and welfare. A national identification number can be used to identify and provide social assistance, to deliver medical care, or to pay social benefits to citizens based on their eligibility. It can become the basic document that identifies the citizen, his or her nationality, as well as political and social opportunities. A national ID or a social security number can facilitate financial transactions between citizens and between them and banking institutions. Implementing the above-mentioned policies and procedures will be relatively smoother and efficient if all Ethiopian citizens are registered with the same national biometric system.
Developed and developing countries have successfully adopted biometric systems to promote immigration, security and stability, as well as social justice. Those who hold national identity cards and have social security numbers find it easier to navigate through the intricacies of the government and public service systems. In Ethiopia, as well as in any other country, a national ID or a social security number is a factor that links a citizen to the benefits and services provided by national and local governments. It is particularly relevant for Ethiopia as it has neighbors who share common heritage and languages. It is thus particularly imperative for Ethiopia to adopt a biometric system with a component of national ID and a social security number.
Ed.’s Note: Samuel Alemu, Esq is a partner at ILBSG, LLP. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School, University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School, and Addis Ababa University. Samuel has been admitted to the bar associations of New York State, United States Tax Court, and the United States Court of International Trade. He can be reached at [email protected].
Contributed by Samuel Alemu